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TallySaint 11-02-2005 01:46 PM

Tagliabue Doublespeak Heard From La. to L.A. (L.A. Times)
Tagliabue Doublespeak Heard from La. to L.A.

J.A. Adande, Los Angeles Times

BATON ROUGE, La. — For the record, NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue said Sunday that any talk of the displaced New Orleans Saints eventually moving to Los Angeles was "nonsensical."

Here's what doesn't make sense: The boss of the most powerful sports league in the country, the man who keeps some of the nation's wealthiest men in check and dictates programming to the No. 1 sports network, acts as if he has no say in the NFL fate of two great American cities.

He had another chance to clarify the Saints' situation — they're in it for the long haul or they're out of here — when he met with the media at Louisiana State's Tiger Stadium before the first Saint game played in Louisiana since Hurricane Katrina blew through. But he continued to tiptoe around the issues, and in the process he left Los Angeles hanging. Again. Once and for all, just tell us whether we're getting a team.

Why can't the man just make a commitment?

(Geez, now I know how Jeanie Buss feels.)

Ever since Katrina tore up the Superdome and subsequent flooding devastated New Orleans, the possibility of the Saints in the City of Angels has been tossed about — just as L.A. comes up any time an owner needs a new stadium.

"The reports this week about the long-term landing spot being Los Angeles were nonsensical," Tagliabue said. "L.A.'s been the landing spot for the Indianapolis Colts, the Arizona Cardinals, the Seattle Seahawks, the Minnesota Vikings and any number of other teams, and the last time I looked they were all operating in their communities and L.A. is off the radar screen."

He didn't mention that the Colts, Cardinals and Seahawks were, respectively, planning, building and playing in new stadiums, thanks in part to hints that they would head to L.A. if they didn't get their way. The Vikings probably would have a new stadium approved by the state if several players hadn't, uh, rocked the boat. (Remember when Tagliabue bullied ESPN into taking "Playmakers" off the air because he thought the raunchy fictional pro league depicted in the show reflected poorly on the NFL? What do you think has the "Playmakers" producers more upset — that they caved so easily, or that they didn't think up an episode called "Fred Smoot Sex Cruise" themselves?)

Although Tagliabue didn't like the depiction of players as drug addicts who would get their fix by stealing medicine from an ailing child, apparently he's fine with the perception of the NFL rulers as greedy, heartless barons. When asked if he was concerned about the league's image if the Saints abandoned their wrecked hometown, Tagliabue said: "I'm not big into images. I'm into reality."

The reality was that only 61,643 fans bought tickets to see the Saints come "home" to face the Miami Dolphins and former LSU coach Nick Saban. A crowd of 88,887 came out to watch the Tigers play North Texas the night before.

Tagliabue said Sunday's attendance wouldn't be a major factor in the Saints' future. He actually seemed optimistic about the team after meeting with Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco (who was encouraged by the meeting), other state officials and Superdome representatives earlier in the day. Tagliabue said the Saints could be a part of the rebuilding effort as a re-branded team representing the entire state and even the Gulf Coast region.

"We're going to make every effort to keep the Saints as Louisiana's team," Tagliabue said.

But he didn't promise they'd be here for good.

"People who over-promise and under-deliver, I don't have great admiration for," Tagliabue said. "People who under-promise and over-deliver, I admire."

It's as if he never considered the third option, the type of pact people honor every day simply by returning phone calls or paying bills: making a pledge and sticking to it.

If Tagliabue said anything that would align him with Saint fans, it was his not-so-subtle swipe at Tom Benson's ownership. Benson has been vilified in Louisiana because the fans fear he is using Hurricane Katrina to escape his Superdome lease and leave town — fears exacerbated when the mayor of San Antonio said, "I'm pretty comfortable in saying [Benson] wants to be here" — and the firing of pro-Louisiana team executive Arnold Fielkow. The fans were not pacified by a full-page newspaper ad Benson bought in which he said: "No decision has been made about the future of the team, because no decision has been made about the future of New Orleans … but my desire is to return to New Orleans."

Fans tailgating outside Tiger Stadium had a sign reading "Tom Benson, Ya Mama Would Be Ashamed," and the crowd booed when Benson's name was mentioned in a scoreboard video about the Saints' contributions to hurricane relief efforts.

Tagliabue had this less-than-ringing endorsement: "The business model for the Saints needs to be changed. It needs to be expanded. I think a fresh look has to be taken at the lease arrangements, the master agreement arrangements. From my perspective, they were flawed. That's not to say that they were too favorable to one side or the other; they just weren't well thought through, and well-structured."

Apparently, the game plan is just as bad as the business plan. The Saints looked pathetic in their 21-6 loss to the Dolphins. If the Saints' future is murky, the present is easy to define: "Right now we are a badfootball team," Coach Jim Haslett said.

And why, exactly, would L.A. want them?

Talk about nonsensical.


Halo 11-02-2005 02:05 PM

RE: Tagliabue Doublespeak Heard From La. to L.A. (L.A. Times
It's a good article, but the stupidest part is about attendance. 88,000 on Saturday only to have 61,000 on Sunday at the Saints game. I think if the Saints were 6 and 1 and not 2 and 5, the place would have been a sellout. But 61,000 + for a losing, underachieving team that has done nothing but piss everyone off down on the Bayou says a whole lot.

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